In 1947 North Carolina became the first state in the nation to use public funds to buy art.
Since that $1MM acquisition of 139 works of European and American art, holdings have grown to include works in European painting from the Renaissance to the 19th-century, including a Kress Foundation gift of 75 Italian Renaissance and baroque paintings. Also, Egyptian funerary art, sculpture and vase painting from ancient Greece and Rome, American art of the 18th- through 20th-centuries, and international contemporary art. Other strengths are African, ancient American, pre-Columbian, and Oceanic art. The NCMA houses a notable permanent display of Jewish ceremonial art objects.
Recent acquisitions include 30 works by Auguste Rodin, and mid- to late-20th-century art, including works by Jackie Ferrara, Adolph Gottlieb, Ellsworth Kelly, and Sean Scully.
More than a dozen monumental works of sculpture are installed among landscaped gardens and reflecting pools in the 164 acre Museum Park.